Our submission to the DECC Community Energy Call for Evidence

The Department for Energy and Climate Change last week closed its call for evidence to support the development of a Community Energy Strategy, to be launched in the autumn. The EPG and colleagues in the Environment and Sustainability Research Group submitted a response based on insights from research. We highlight that people, and the communities in which they live and work, have a key role to play in the UK’s transition to a sustainable energy future, and it is hoped that the forthcoming Strategy can go some way towards removing barriers for community initiatives and ensuring that they can meet their potential.

 Summary of main points

  •  A more robust definition of community energy is needed to properly reflect how the potential costs and benefits of energy decisions are shared among those affected. We suggest the following phrase: Community energy projects are diverse but those which combine a local, participatory and collective approach tend to have the most legitimacy and credibility.
  • The benefits of community energy are highly dependant on who is involved, their drivers, and the process though which changes are made.
  • Principal goals will vary from project to project, and the Government should support and encourage diversity in community energy initiatives, and consider their impact across a range of dimensions rather than focusing solely on increasing RE capacity.
  • Community energy can fail to achieve maximum benefits, and indeed can divide communities, if not carried out correctly.
  • A key role for Government is to provide support while acknowledging the importance of bottom-up motivations and local knowledge in tailoring approaches to local challenges.
  • Increasing knowledge of, and participation in localising the benefits of medium and large-scale renewables may go some way in encouraging local support towards such schemes.
  • If people and communities are to be helped to fulfil their potential in the energy system, the current regulatory framework will need considerable reform.
  • There are significant financial barriers to community energy, specifically in relation to early, at risk stages of project development.
  • There is a clear and urgent need for standardised methods to identify and assess the realised economic, social and environmental benefits from community energy projects.
  • A narrow approach to evidence and evaluation (e.g. purely focusing upon emissions reductions, or the use of a cost-benefit analytic framework) is unlikely to capture all of the objective and subjective outcomes of a community energy project.
  • National Government could be doing more to identify and communicate best practice in building and fostering relationships between local authorities, communities and the private sector.
  • Better policy that takes specific account of community approaches could considerably de-risk activity within this sector.

Read the full response here Community Energy Consultation – EPG Response (opens PDF)

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